By Paul Waldman
Paul Waldman is a senior fellow with Media Matters for America and a senior contributor to The Gadflyer.
Every administration has its share of scandals to deal with, and every one handles them in a slightly different way (of course, it helps if your party controls both houses of Congress, so there will be no pesky Congressional investigations to deal with). But the Bush administration’s furious effort to save Karl Rove and justify the outing of a covert CIA operative is a remarkable case study in misdirection, a campaign whose scaffolding of spin is plain for all to see.
Listen to the party hacks and conservative pundits and you can hear an endlessly repeated version of the talking points issued by the Republican National Committee. ( You can see them here, courtesy of Raw Story).
When we unpack its elements we can see not only the state of the art in political damage control but the tools that allow the Republicans to come out on top again and again when controversy rears its ugly head.
Step 1: It’s not really about us, it’s about them.
This is one of the fundamental divides between the two parties today, something Republicans understand and Democrats don’t: If the controversy is about you, you lose; if it’s about your opponent, you win. So when Democrats responded to Karl Rove’s slander about their response to 9/11 by saying that they supported the war in Afghanistan, they were making the mistake of arguing about whether they were or weren’t a bunch of wimps. Every time one of these controversies erupts, the Republicans always make it about Democrats: Who they are, what they’ve said and what they’ve done.
So now when Republicans talk about Rove, we hear the phrases “angry left